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ANALYSIS AND PLANNING
Mississippi River Trail (MRT) Bikeway
MnDOT Pedestrian and Bicycle Section
The Mississippi River Trail (MRT) is a bicycle route along the Mississippi River through ten states, from the headwaters at Lake Itasca to the Gulf of Mexico. The MRT began as a community and economic development project for the lower Mississippi delta region.
Work on Minnesota’s 800-mile MRT began in 2000 with identifying and mapping the route. Today the MRT is located on paved shoulders, low traffic roads, and scenic trails. It passes through nearly 162 cities/townships, twenty counties, and connects numerous parks and trails.
To market and promote the MRT, seven communities were selected through a competitive process to receive technical assistance to become bicycle-friendly communities and market and promote bicycling. Efforts resulted in new bicycle education, regional bicycling guides, maps, events that incorporate the MRT.
A collaborative framework with local road and trail authorities to manage route revisions, MRT signs, route maps, construction detours, and marketing into the future was also developed.
Landscape architects have been intensively involved with the MRT at every stage, typically in leading roles both at MnDot and on the consultant team.
Minnesota’s MRT is the “big idea” that continues to bring communities together in unconventional ways to promote bicycle transportation, recreation, tourism, and bicycle-friendly communities. In 2012, the MRT became Minnesota’s first legislatively authorized state bikeway and first designated United States Bicycle Route. The MRT has significantly moved Minnesota forward as a bicycle-friendly state and is a tremendous vehicle to tie economic value to environmental stewardship and an enhanced quality of life.
National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Northwestern Branch, Historic American Landscapes Survey
Damon Farber Associates
The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers is a National Historic Landmark. The historic campus, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, comprises 170 acres of a beautiful, rolling mature landscape which displays essence of the picturesque landscape.
The campus originated during the American Civil War to care for injured soldiers in the civil war. In 1930, the NHDVS organization was absorbed into the newly created Veterans Administration (VA). Many of the original campus buildings remain, and the campus continues to be used largely in the same way.
In 2011, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark (NHL), providing strong protection for the campus, and recognizing the landscape architecture as a significant component to the cultural resource.
Development within an NHL triggers review from local and national agencies including the National Park Service, The Advisory Council for Historic Preservation, The National Trust for Historic Places and local SHPO. A cultural resources team was retained to complete historic documentation for the campus. As part of the team, the landscape architects completed a level 1 Historic American Landscapes Study (HALS).
To create the mapping and graphics, the LA’s drew all linework and maps by referencing historic maps, photography, and artwork. The landscape architects developed a new approach for completion of a HALS document, and created a higher standard for this National Park Service documentation program.
The landscape architects continue to remain involved with the review of the campus projects, and the HALS document has become a valuable and accessible tool for campus development.
Virtua Voorhees Hospital
HGA Architects and Engineers
When Virtua Healthcare purchased 125 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the Pinelands National Reserve in New Jersey to construct a new hospital, they hired HGA to assist in siting of the building and basic programming needs, including exterior gardens and stormwater management.
Recognizing this unique ecological context, the landscape architect created a comprehensive sustainable landscape plan that integrates the new hospital into its natural setting and transforms the site into an ecological preserve for pine barren plant communities.
The landscape architect evaluated the site, inventoried existing plant communities and identified critical preservation areas to determine siting of the building and a planting palette. Landscape features include pine/oak stands that serve as a buffer between the hospital and surrounding residential community, vegetated roofs, constructed wetlands, and preserved groves linked to outdoor gathering spaces for employees, patients, and visitors.
Between the site perimeter and the hospital, the landscape transitions from wilderness to formal gardens. These gardens are planted to create unique micro-ecosystems that represent forest, meadow and wetland vegetation communities.
The Virtua Vorhees Hospital represents the unique challenge of mitigating the effects of a large structure in a sensitive ecological environment. The landscape architect integrated programmatic requirements of the hospital with a thorough evaluation and restoration of the native landscape to create a landscape that honors the plant communities of the pine barrens and limits the impacts of development.
River's Edge Commons
Hoisington Koegler Group, Inc.
River’s Edge Commons is a small urban park located in the heart of Elk River’s historic downtown. The City recognized the need to strengthen the long-term viability of downtown by embracing the river and attracting residents to and enlivening Elk River’s historic downtown. The park is on the site of a former hardware store, which burned in the 1950’s, leaving the site as a gap in the historic storefronts of the downtown district for more than five decades.
The design intent was to create a strong connection between downtown and the Mississippi River, create an event venue that would attract people to downtown to support local businesses, and respect downtown’s historic character.
The design fits within the existing topography and integrates three primary public gathering spaces: A street level plaza with a popular in-grade fountain that is both a focal point and interactive play, a hillside performance venue, and a small pavilion.
The design uses native materials, innovative stormwater techniques incorporating raingardens and low water consumption techniques for irrigation. History is celebrated through interpretation, preservation of a culturally significant wall mural, and respect for the architectural era of downtown.
The overwhelming success of the summer concert series is a tribute to the high quality and context appropriate design of the venue. The addition of the park to the downtown has been described by local leaders as an important ongoing contributor to the viability of nearby downtown businesses, bringing over 20,000 people downtown in 2012. The project has sparked additional public investment in downtown.
Allianz Life USA Corporate Headquarters
Upon acquiring a consolidated 12 -acre corporate campus in Golden Valley MN, Allianz Life Insurance needed an impressive design that show-cased the campus and addressed site constraints.
The design centers on an expansive outdoor courtyard with a diverse combination of gathering spaces that facilitate meetings and recreation among Allianz employees and their visitors in an atmosphere that invites casual mingling and inventiveness.
The curvilinear geometry of the interior courtyard is inspired by the company tricycle races that use the figure-eight circulation pattern.
The central public dining terrace is a relaxing environment with the ambient sound of flowing water and the backdrop of aspen trees. The dining terrace and gardens are visible from the offices and the cafeteria, establishing a strong connection between indoor and outdoor experiences.
In addition to the main courtyard, smaller, more private peripheral garden conference rooms were situated throughout the site. Amusing landscape elements offer employees an opportunity to play. Elements include a golf putting green, shuffleboard, the sloping lawn for outdoor staged events, the fire-pit.
Allianz Life USA Corporate HQ is truly a landscape designed for people.
Coen + Partners
Located within the mixed prairie and agricultural landscape of southern Minnesota, the Smith Residence landscape design is a response to the client’s desire to accommodate both large social functions and small, family gatherings. A simple, flexible layout consists of gardens, expansive terraces, and a raised-edge swimming pool to counter the dramatic, curving facades of the home and pool house, grounding the architecture to the site. A bold rectangular plinth was conceived in response to the existing locations of the home and pool house, as well as to the topography of the site. Intensive hardscape and planting intervention were restricted to this area while the landscape beyond was restored to its native prairie origins with a carefully selected seed mix .
The programmatic desires of the client were to create distinct connections across the site while protecting small areas of privacy and retreat. In response to these needs, the Landscape Architect designed a band of Whitespire Birch and Autumn Joy Sedum to form a dividing line between the entertainment terrace at the front entry of the home, and the recreational lawn. This plant pairing carries through the site.
An elevated pool and spa in the rear terrace is inspired by the Japanese soaking tub within the house’s master suite. The 12 inch raised edge of the pools adds an unexpected verticality to the main terrace that accentuates the strong horizontality of the site and landscape beyond.
The overall planting design uses just a small selection of common landscape species combined into tight grids, patches and undulating carpets. Additionally, the seasonal changes in the plants along with a winter carpet of snow provide year-round interest.
The majority of the property was seeded with a native prairie mix, which, once established, will not require regular maintenance or irrigation, and will provide a patch of important habitat for native species and migratory birds.
Lifetime Landscape Design Guidelines
Damon Farber Associates
Life Time Fitness is a growing publicly traded company headquartered in Chanhassen Minnesota. Today they operate 105 fitness clubs across the North America with ongoing growth potential.
Trademarked as the “Healthy Way of Life Company”, Life Time strives to provide the best facilities for their members. Understanding the importance the landscape plays in first impressions and ongoing member experience, Life Time hired a team of Landscape Architects to develop the first edition LIFETIME Landscape Design Guidelines.
The team devised narrative and graphics to illustrate areas of emphasis on a typical site. The prototypical site was sub-divided into eight “Site Planting Areas” (SPA’s). This breakdown of the site afforded the team the opportunity to tailor guidelines for the respective areas. This was a key component that focused additional enhancement and budget in priority areas on the site.
As stewards of the environment, the team knew it was crucial to promote stormwater management opportunities in combination with the landscape. Chapter three was dedicated to stormwater management and the benefits of Low Impact Development (LID). LID techniques suitable for Life Time were identified.
The guide promotes an overall reduction to turf areas, and steers consultants to newer turf mixes that require less irrigation, mowing, and chemical inputs. The last and perhaps most significant piece of the document is a customized plant vocabulary. Each plant was researched, documented, and presented for specific Site Planting Areas.
The design guidelines are facilitating dialogue between consultants and Life Time Development Managers, enhancing landscape brand image, and benefiting the environment with sustainable initiatives.
Everywhere Nowhere: Paradigm Change for the Lower Duwamish River
Studio 8201: University of Minnesota Department of Landscape Architecture
award of excellence
This collaborative project explores a future model for landscape architectural practice. This model is in response to emerging issues of “massive change” in our rapidly changing, post-industrial world. These issues provided the socio-cultural context to speculate alternative futures for a complex EPA Superfund site located along seven miles of Duwamish River in the port of Seattle, WA. Working with a local non-profit agency and operating through the lens of paradigm change and design advocacy, the project team generated innovative and speculative design proposals that contemplate ecological resiliency, sea level+climate change, urban agriculture, environmental justice, carbon sequestration, blue-green infrastructure, and superfund clean-up.
Over the past 100 years, the lower Duwamish River Valley of Seattle, Washington has been dramatically altered. What was once home to Chief Seattle and the Duwamish Tribe has become one of the largest and most complex EPA Superfund sites in the United States.
There will be over $2billion dollars invested in environmental remediation, habitat restoration and blue-green infrastructure in the Duwamish Valley over the next 20 years. However, no specific plan exists to contemplate the effect of these changes on either the residents or the future urban character of the lower Duwamish River.
The design proposals focus on transformative planning and design strategies to retrofit the existing valley into a quality, healthy environment for dwelling, re-inhabitation, re-habitation and re-investment. The projects expand the role of landscape architecture to advance professional practice breadth and value.
Town Branch Commons
Coen + Partners
The Town Branch Commons design unifies a vision for Lexington, KY, that echoes the existing character by building upon the brilliant legacy that has defined this city and region. At a time when American cities must learn to reuse infrastructure, embrace population growth, and renew our natural systems, the Landscape Architect’s vision to strategically daylight the Town Branch Creek provides a 21st century catalyst for city-building in Lexington.
The contiguous and complex mosaic of Town Branch Commons was driven by metrics associated with five design overlays: cultural networks, energy dynamics, mobility scales, natural systems, and livable networks.
Cultural Network: From new iconic bridges recalling the region’s wooden covered structures, to new landmarks within open spaces referencing Lexington’s equestrian heritage, each intervention is vital to place-making and social context.
Energy Dynamics: The Landscape Architect responded to the flows of energy that cross through the Commons every day.
Mobility Scales: The design for Town Branch Commons addresses the necessity for automobile circulation through the city, but embeds a human-scale network of multi-modal transportation that allows people to leave their cars behind.
Livability Network: The Landscape Architect establishes a livable network through strategic, compact, mixed-use development throughout the Commons.
Natural Systems: The vision offers a distinctive model for how new urban infrastructure can sustain, rather than weaken, the natural systems in which it sits.